“A scenic river with clear water bordered by up to 16 meters high limestone wall in Nueva Ecija–is this for real?” that was what I thought when my colleagues in my previous company and I received an invitation to an outdoor activity at Minalungao National Park.
Dubbed as the Rice Granary of the Philippines and the leading producer of onion in South East Asia, Nueva Ecija is most commonly known only for its agricultural products. Little did we know that this province also has a paradise.
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The tour was organized by adventure club at ePerformax. Part of the expenses was supported by the company. They have monthly outdoor activities that give employees the opportunity to travel on a budget and enjoy life outside the office.
Minalungao National Park registration fee is just PHP250. Inclusions are roundtrip transfer and entrance to the park. That was a good deal. So, if you’re an employee of ePerformax, your PHP250 can take you this far.
Visiting the park via public transport:
- From Cubao, take a bus going to Cabanatuan
- Get off at Gapan City. Travel time is 2 hours.
- From Gapan City, you can ride on a tricycle to Minalungao National Park. Travel time is 2 hours. A tricycle can accommodate 3-5 people for PHP500-800.
- Another option is to take a jeepney going to Gen. Tinio, then take a tricycle to Minalungao Park.
The road to the park was rough–an indication that the place is underdeveloped. The moment we arrived, I noticed some ongoing construction. I believe, business owners are now starting to build a resort in the area. We went there on a weekend, so I expected the place to be crowded given that it’s one of the newest tourist attractions in central Luzon.
Our first activity was an easy hike and a quick spelunking. The trail going to the cave was modified with stairs. There is nothing to see inside the cave. If you did spelunking in Sagada, probably, that would be your standard, so this one is like a short walk inside the cave.
Eateries around the area offer good food for a reasonable price. For less than a hundred pesos (US$2), you’ll get a decent meal. There are tables and nipa hut on a raft, making the park different from all others. The view is stunning!
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You can do most of the activities for free like swimming, cliff diving, and crossing the hanging bridge. You can also chill out and just float. Wear your life jacket and let the water current take you to as far as you want it to. It was my favorite, as the current was strong. Swimming against the current, however, was a struggle. Also, the depth of the water changes quickly, so be careful when you swim.
A public restroom and shower room is also open to the public. Water pressure, however, is frail. In the men’s room, only one faucet is working to fill up the drum. You will have to wait for it to be full, then transfer the water into a pail. Cost is PHP10.
Most of the groups who visit the place rent a raft with a table and nipa hut floating on the calm water for PHP500 (US$10). It’s the best way to bond with your family and friends. Visitors are allowed to bring in food and drinks. But, please be mindful of your waste. Never dispose of it in the river.
The fun never ends by the river. You can also zip away for only PHP150 (US$3). I didn’t try it, though, as I experienced the same activity in other places a lot already. But, I believe it’s worth it.
If you are looking for a quick and low-cost getaway near Manila, Minalungao National Park is highly recommended. Visit the place during weekdays if you want the trip to be more relaxing. I hope that they preserve the place and keep the development at a minimum so as not to destroy its natural beauty. And please leave no trace. I got sad when I saw trash lying around the area. Let’s preserve its beauty, so the next generation can enjoy it.